GAINESVILLE — I'm not sure what should offend a Florida Gators football player more about the August issue of GQ Magazine.
The fact that the magazine ranked its school among the 10 most annoying colleges in the country -- using a less-than-flattering slang term to do so -- or that Florida's ranking was attributed, in part, to being the "home of 'Tim Tebow is a god.' "
Excuse me, GQ. Tim Tebow isn't just any Gainesville deity. He's THE Gainesville deity. And his shadow of mythical powers still hovers over the Gators. No, really, I think the cut on my toe healed Friday during the Gators' media day when I walked past Tebow's statue.
Everyone knows Tebow and Urban Meyer helped the Gators reach tremendous success a few years back. And that's the problem. Everyone knows the last chapter, but what about the next chapter? More important, who are the new characters and what are they about?
Somewhere in the haze of glory, two seasons have rolled by since the 2008 national championship. Tebow and some of his starring cast left for the greener pastures of the NFL. Meyer quit, came back and quit again.
But something even more jarring happened. Florida's identity changed from powerhouse to workhorse. Or, as first-year Gators coach Will Muschamp defines them, "blue collar."
Blue collar and Florida? I thought Florida was moving into a new chapter, not a new book.
"It's just hard-working and that's what coach [Mickey] Marotti put us through this offseason and this summer — tough situations to be in where leaders had to prevail and show up," said Gators quarterback John Brantley on the definition of "blue collar."
If hard-working defines a blue-collar team, then let's lump every past, present and future Florida team into that group. In fact, let's lump every college sports team in America into that group. I don't know a college athlete who isn't hard-working.
Blue collar is a perfectly distinctive word that defines an indistinctive team.
Florida is young and largely inexperienced. It will take time for this group to find its identity and, most important, special leaders.
I'm not talking about a locker-room cheerleader, but athletes who consistently execute plays.
It is the only way to survive among the elite in college football's most dominant conference, the SEC.
Four different SEC teams won the national championship for the past five consecutive years, bolstered by Heisman Trophy-winning stars such as Tebow, Mark Ingram andCam Newton.
What sets the SEC apart from its competitors is simple — superstars. In a league in which every team is stocked with talent, one to two special players can be the difference between 11-1 or 7-5.
But you don't have to take my word for it, just look at how the coaches voted in the ESPN/USA Today preseason college football poll. After an unprecedented 14-0 season, a Newtonless-Auburn entered the season ranked No. 19 in the country despite boasting the same coach and six returning starters. No defending national champ has ever begun a season ranked so low since the poll began.
We say coaches run the show in college, but coaches believe otherwise.
There's no question Florida is lacking star power right now. Athlon Sports only selected one player, sophomore Sharrif Floyd, to its top 40 SEC players.
And that's OK.
Teams go through cycles. They rebuild, but great programs don't have to rename themselves with words like "blue collar."
The Gators don't need a collar, they need a chip on their shoulder — and someone to step up and help them let go of Tebow on the way back to the top of the SEC.Copyright © 2015, RedEye